Wind gusts, smoke complicate firefighters job in Custer park

Firefighters use back burning to control the spread of a fire in Custer State Park in South Dakota on Tuesday Dec. 12 2017. High wind gusts are making it more difficult for firefighters to battle the blaze at the park in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Local firefighters are heading west to help with a fire that has burned more than 4,000 acres in two days.

A building has been destroyed by the blaze.

The so-called Legion Lake Fire grew to more than 6 square miles by Tuesday evening, after forcing the evacuation of five homes in Custer State Park, the Associated Press reports.

Firefighters have concentrated on protecting structures including popular tourist sites such as the Blue Bell Lodge and the State Game Lodge. Officials say wildlife isn't at risk because animals in the park are familiar with wildfire and naturally avoid risky areas. No one has been injured.

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The Park's Kobee Stalder says that until now the challenging terrain around the Legion Lake Fire kept firefighters from directly battling the blaze. Low amounts of moisture in grasses and other dry organic materials on the ground suggested that critical burning conditions exist.

A posting on the Custer State Park Facebook page about 10:30 p.m. said that all residents on Lame Johnny Road should plan for immediate evacuation while the town of Fairburn had been put on pre-evacuation notice.

Custer State Park and roads in the park are expected to be closed now through at least Friday, Dec. 15.

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